New report rejects China’s claim virus came from Wuhan market

An explosive new scientific study has challenged China's claim that the coronavirus originated in a wet market in Wuhan.

The study by university academics in the US and Canada found the coronavirus was in fact taken to the live animal market in Wuhan by someone who was already carrying the virus.

The researchers were stunned to find that the pathogen was "already pre-adapted to human transmission", a very rare characteristic.

The new findings are likely to stoke the belief that China is desperately trying to hide the real source of the coronavirus pandemic - and that it actually came from a laboratory.

 

"The publicly available genetic data does not point to cross-species transmission of the virus at the market," said Alina Chan, a molecular biologist, and Shing Zhan, an evolutionary biologist, the Mail on Sunday reported.

"The possibility that a non-genetically engineered precursor could have adapted to humans while being studied in a laboratory should be considered," their research paper said.

It was written by Chan and Ben Deverman, scientists at the Broad Institute, a research facility affiliated with Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Zhan, from the University of British Columbia.

 

Wuhan Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market. Picture: Supplied
Wuhan Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market. Picture: Supplied

The development adds to the growing criticism that the Chinese ruling Communist Party downplayed the severity of the outbreak and failed to report accurate numbers of the virus in the country.

"We need to get to the bottom of many things in relation to COVID-19," said Bob Seely, a member of the British Parliament.

"We need to know where this virus began, why we were told at one time there was no human transmission, and what was the role of the Chinese Communist Party."

 

Health officials inspect bats. Picture: AP
Health officials inspect bats. Picture: AP

US President Donald Trump has been scating in his criticism of Beijing for a lack of transparency in its response to the pandemic. He insists the the coronavirus began in a Wuhan lab.

The US intelligence community, which has concluded that the virus was not "man made or genetically modified," is investigating where the outbreak first occurred.

Meanwhile, China's ambassador to Israel was found dead in his home north of Tel Aviv - just three months into the job, officials said.

The 58-year-old ambassador, Du Wei, was discovered unconscious inside his official residence in Herzliya, according to Israel's Foreign Ministry.

 

 

No cause of death was provided.

Du was appointed in February to the role as coronavirus was spreading across the globe. He previously served as China's envoy to Ukraine.

His death comes after he accused other countries last month of trying to make China the scapegoat of the coronavirus pandemic, BBC reported.

"That is despicable and should be condemned," Du said. "The disease is an enemy of the entire humankind and the world should fight it together."

 

'NEVER IMAGINED IT WOULD LAST THIS LONG'

Acclaimed writer Fang Fang was caught in the epicentre of the world coronavirus outbreak - the Chinese city of Wuhan - where she kept an online diary that went viral.

In it she chronicled the extraordinary challenges and tragedies of daily existence; the incompetence of the authorities; her struggles against internet censors; and the mob-style trolling from regime loyalists who saw her truthful reporting and commentary as a treacherous attack on China's leaders.

Fang Fang's blog has now been published as an e-book and audio book, Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City. This edited extract gives a taste of the trials and emotions of her 60 days in lockdown.

 

January 25

I'm not sure if I'll be able to send anything out through my Weibo account. It wasn't too long ago that I had my account shut down after I criticised a group of young nationalists who were harassing people on the streets with foul language.

I just received a message from Cheng Yongxin an editor for the literary journal Harvest, suggesting that I start writing a series that we could call "Wuhan Diary," or "Notes from a Quarantined City." My first instinct is that, if my Weibo account is still active and I'm able to post, perhaps I really should start writing about what is happening. It would be a way for people to understand what really is going on here on the ground in Wuhan.

January 26

The bad news continues. Yesterday my daughter told me that the father of one of her friends seemingly contracted the virus (he was also suffering from liver cancer); they took him to the hospital but there was no one available to treat him and he died three hours later.

Yesterday's press conference in Hubei about the coronavirus has become a trending topic on the internet. There are a lot of people roasting those officials online. The three representatives from the government all looked utterly exhausted and depressed, and they kept making mistakes during their presentations; but this shows just how chaotic things are for them … But how did things get to this point? Looking back and going through everything in my head, it is pretty clear: During the early stage of the outbreak, officials from Wuhan didn't take the virus seriously enough.

Officials in China have always let written directives guide their work, so once you take away the script they are at a complete loss as to how to steer the ship … When the world of officialdom skips over the natural process of competition, it leads to disaster; empty talk about political correctness without seeking truth from facts also leads to disaster; prohibiting people from speaking the truth and media from reporting the truth leads to disaster; and now we are tasting the fruits of these disasters, one by one.

 

The scene outside Wuhan’s Leishenshan Hospital, a newly-built facility for COVID-19 patients in China. Picture: AFP
The scene outside Wuhan’s Leishenshan Hospital, a newly-built facility for COVID-19 patients in China. Picture: AFP

January 30

For the past two days, the internet has been abuzz with news about how that group of specialists behaved when they visited Wuhan. That's right, these are the same well-respected "specialists" who lowered their guard and nonchalantly told us that it was "Not Contagious Between People" and "It's Controllable and Preventable"; they have truly committed heinous crimes with their irresponsible words. If they had even an ounce of decency left, I wonder what sense of guilt they might feel when they see all those people suffering.

 

January 31

My god, how many families here in Wuhan are being destroyed by this disaster? And up until now I still haven't heard a single person stand up to take responsibility or apologise.

 

February 2

These past few days we are in what the specialists predicted to be a period of "viral outbreak." I expect I will be seeing or hearing even more grim news in the days to come. The video I found most difficult to watch today was a news clip of a daughter trailing behind her mother's funeral car, screaming through her tears. Her mommy was gone and now her remains were being driven away. The daughter will never be able to give her mother a proper burial; she probably won't even know what they did with her mother's ashes.

 

February 6

As soon as I wrapped up today's blog entry, I heard the news that Dr. Li Wenliang has passed away. He was one of the eight doctors who were penalised for speaking out about the virus early on, and later he himself was infected with the novel coronavirus. Right now everyone in this city is crying for him. And I am heartbroken.

 

February 7

During this dark, heavy night, Li Wenliang will be our light.

Meanwhile, this virus continues to roam the city like an evil spirit, appearing whenever and wherever it pleases, terrorising the people of this city.

 

February 12

Here in Wuhan it is hard to find anyone who isn't experiencing some form of psychological trauma from all this. This is something I'm afraid none of us can avoid. Whether it be those still-healthy individuals (including children) who have been stuck at home for more than 20 days, those patients who have spent time wandering the city in the cold and rain trying to find a hospital to take them in, those relatives who have been forced to watch their loved ones tied up in a body bag and shipped off to a crematorium, or those medical workers who helplessly watch as patient after patient dies while they remain unable to save them. And there are so many more traumatic stories that will continue to be a psychological burden on people for a very long time to come.

 

March 13

It has now been more than 50 days since the quarantine was implemented. If they had told us in the beginning that this would last 50 days I wonder how we would have taken that news. But no matter what, I certainly never imagined it would last this long.

 

March 15

I have always liked Weibo as a platform, so ever since my account was unblocked, I have been posting my diary entries on Weibo each day. However, starting a few days ago there was suddenly a flood of thousands of users who started to attack me online. These trolls have been deployed in mass numbers, and their posts are ridiculous and offensive. I've gone from thinking the whole thing was just preposterous to a state of anger and, now, I'm just left numb by the whole thing. Part of the reason is that I have discovered from their posts that the vast majority of them have never even read my diary. All they have heard are a few quotes taken out of context and then framed with a particularly malicious analysis; and that is what they are attacking me on.

A lot of these people would seem decent if you ran into them on the street, but once they log onto the internet their malicious dark side all comes out.

A good thing, then, that the internet has a memory, and that memory lasts a long time.

 

March 23

All those questions, they remain unanswered

If we don't investigate who was responsible for such a massive incident, I wonder how the government can ever face its people. I have been following this topic from the beginning. Looking over things carefully, among all those people connected to what happened, some of them should certainly take the initiative and resign; that's what happened after the SARS outbreak. But for some reason, even up until today, not a single official in Hubei has resigned; I guess they know how to play the game.

Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City by Fang Fang is translated by Michael Berry and published by HarperCollins.

Now available in e-book from Apple Books and available in audio book from Audible from May 26.

Originally published as New report rejects China's claim virus came from Wuhan market



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